From the Thunderbirds to Star Wars, Doctor Who to Captain Scarlet, the toy collector’s horizons are infinite. That’s why Alan needs a “bigger shop.”
The Bluefurball in Penzance, Cornwall.
Alan Stewart owns Bluefurball, a shop stacked with various film and TV franchise collectables. From it’s humble beginnings selling t-shirts, the shop has transitioned into what Alan, grinning wide, refers to as ‘Nerdvana‘.
“We have collectable up the walls, across the ceiling, in packets and in dioramas. We’ve been told not to sell anything by some customers because it’s a museum.” says Alan.
Starting off with only £300 worth of stock, the shop is now estimated to be worth £70-80’000 in resale value.
It all sounds great, but does it sell?
“Everything sells itself…” says Alan.
“Every year sales have gone up, this year has been the best ever. Most of our collectables will probably end up being sold online but we have regulars. They attend Comic-con and come straight back to us because we have everything!”
Prices in Alan’s shop range between each collectable. Used toys, such as Doctor Who and Thunderbirds figurines can start from only £40 in price. But the shop also houses some rarer signed items, including Star Wars figurines signed by various cast members. These pieces, are valued in the hundreds. I asked Alan if he could recall the priciest item sold by the shop. “Probably the Star Wars boxed storm trooper helmet, that was £250. People are willing to pay it, these items are highly desirable.”
During my interview with Alan, we were constantly interrupted by customers wanting to praise both the owner and his shop. One particular customer referred to the shop as “a magical place.”
She added: “It really is to me, like wonderland. If you like Mr Parker, Captain Scarlet…it’s wonderfully stocked.”
A day at Bluefurball, capturing the stock, the people and the passion.
But is this a shrinking market? Are people willing to pay collector’s prices?
“The market seems to be stronger than ever for original 1960’s/’70s sci-fi toys at the moment.”
Nell Hilditch works at the Cottees Auction house in Poole, which regularly hosts a special collectable toy auction.
“Collector’s are paying big money for original sci-fi figures and comics as they are becoming harder to find. As these items enjoy a resurgence in popularity, there are a lot of re-issues and fakes being produced. The die hard collectors are after the real deal and if they’ve been searching for an item to complete their collection for a while, then they will pay whatever they need to pay.”
Nell went on to discuss the turnout to the auctions: “The sales are always busy, although the majority of buyers will now buy online. We have a lot of international buyers as the toys are difficult to find abroad.”
“The comics and sci-fi figures often exceed their estimates. We once had a Dalek lunch bag from the 1960’s. It didn’t look special, just a zip up bag with a plain thermos and cup. We entered it with an estimate of £20-30 and it sold for over £350 to a Doctor Who collector. He informed us that the fabric on the outside of the bag was very rare.”
Collectable comics are a best seller at Bluefurball.
Let’s talk the rarest of the rare.
“The most expensive figures are known as The Last 17 – these were only produced for a short time and because weren’t popular at the time they are harder to get hold of now.” said Nell.
We had a Dalek lunchbox estimated at £20-30…
it sold for over £350 to a Doctor Who collector.
The Last 17 refers to 17 figures from The Power of the Force Star Wars range. They are notoriously difficult to find because they were produced during a decline of interest in the franchise in the late 1980s. Now they’re some of the most sought after collectable figures. Century 21 Toys produced a range of Thunderbirds toys which are also highly collectable. Packaging and condition of collectables are often considered as important as the item itself at Cottees auctions said Nell.
“It is hard to find 60/70s toys in their original packaging and the packaging is often worth more than the figure itself. Take original Star Wars figures for example, original figures sealed on their original backing cards will sell for hundreds if not thousands of pounds more than if un-carded. Of course condition of the card is very important too and makes a big difference to the price.”